Dixon, Kuznitz, McHugh, Pelter, Works named 2019 Oswald Award winners

March 20, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Five Penn State students in their respective areas of leadership have been honored with the 2019 John W. Oswald Award. Awards were given in the following fields: Allyson McHugh, athletics; Marissa Works, creative and performing arts; both Alison Kuznitz and Brandon Pelter, journalism, speech and the mass media; and Cullen Dixon, scholarship. 

The John W. Oswald Award, established in 1983, annually recognizes graduating seniors who have provided outstanding leadership in at least one of several areas of activity at the University. The award consists of a medallion honoring John W. Oswald, president of the University from 1970 to 1983.


McHugh, who is majoring in biobehavioral health in the College of Health and Human Development, has spent the past four years honing her talents on the Penn State Women’s Swim Team in preparation for the Olympic Games.

Nominators said McHugh’s dedication to the sport has led to great heights and also has led to esteem and recognition for Penn State.

McHugh, who is team captain, came to Penn State with great potential despite not earning top-place finishes in her senior year of Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Swimming and Diving Championships. She quickly improved and finished fourth worldwide in the 400-meter individual medley and placed 10th and 11th worldwide in the 1500- and 800-meter freestyle, respectively.

“These rankings are no accident,” said a nominator. “During the past four years, McHugh molded herself into one of the best swimmers in the world, all while representing Penn State with class, dignity and honor. Each day she wakes up with the goal of preparing herself for Olympic glory. She competes against professional athletes, and the best swimmers in the world, all while pursuing her degree at Penn State.”

McHugh is the highest finisher in Penn State history at the NCAA Championships in swimming and diving. In 2018, she set a Big Ten record when she finished second to world-record-holder Katie Ledecky in the 1650-meter freestyle. McHugh holds three NCAA Honorable Mention All-Americans in the 400-meter individual medley, 1,650-meter freestyle and 500-meter freestyle.

In 2018, McHugh won the USA Swimming National Championship in the 400-meter individual medley at the U.S. Open, where she continues to represent the U.S. and Penn State.

Creative and performing arts

Works, a double-major in public relations and music education in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, has combined her passion for music with her education in promoting it.

Her leadership roles include serving three years as president of the Performing Arts Council of Penn State’s Center for Performing Arts. There, she spearheaded the “Arts App Initiative” with the goal of increasing student awareness for arts events. Works hired a team to complete the app, which launched last fall, and met with campus leaders to find funding and support for the project.

“Her vision for the Performance Arts Council’s long-term impact at Penn State and her understanding of the importance of building relationships has launched the council to the forefront of the student arts scene,” a nominator said.

Previously Works was a marketing intern at the Center for Performing Arts where she created research-based marketing strategies that surveyed student involvement and attendance in the arts on campus.

Works is also president and music director of the University a cappella group The Pennharmonics. She manages a 16-member a capella group by running rehearsals, selecting and arranging repertoire, planning concerts, booking performances and running auditions.

“It has been a pleasure to watch Works grow into her leadership role,” a nominator said. “Time and time again, she has proven herself to be a poised and thoughtful person. She has an amazing vision for what the arts community could be like at Penn State and is incredibly talented at identifying steps needed to make that happen and at putting those ideas into action.”

Journalism, speech and mass media

Kuznitz, a double-major in journalism and marketing in the Bellisario College of Communications, was the third place winner in the 2018 Hearst National Writing Championship in the personality profile category. Pelter, broadcast journalism major in the Bellisario College of Communications, has worked in radio, television and print journalism for campus sports, the NFL and the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon.


Kuznitz worked as a news and editorial intern at the Hartford Courant. There, she assisted in the coverage of the Connecticut gubernatorial primary, including three debates and an election. She also reported on community and local government issues, adopting a hyper-localized approach. She also used a content-management system to design web layout with text and multimedia elements.

Kuznitz is also an editor and reporter at The Daily Collegian, Penn State’s student-run newspaper. There, she works as a features and investigative editor. She also worked as News Chief in 2018, where she was responsible for managing day-to-day delivery of breaking news and enterprise stories among the staff of more than 30 reporters, editing articles for clarity and accuracy.

Kuznitz also worked in television as a producer for Penn State Network (PSN) News as an executive producer and news producer. She’s also a newscast member for Penn State’s Comm Radio where she co-anchored 30-minute live broadcasts and compiled audio stories based on original interviews.

“Kuznitz is an outstanding journalism student, ambitious and conscientious, not to mention a tenacious reporter and skillful writer,” a nominator said. “I count her among our best print and digital students in recent years, and I feel fortunate to have helped in elevating her journalism career.”


As a reporter, editor and executive producer, Pelter wrote, filmed and edited stories for the Emmy Award-winning Centre County Report, a live student-produced newscast that airs in 29 counties across Pennsylvania.

At the Penn State Sports Network (Learfield Sports), Pelter was a game analyst for the Penn State men’s hockey team. At the Big Ten Network, he worked as a Student-U play-by-play broadcaster for Penn State baseball, softball and wrestling.

Pelter was general manager of Penn State Comm Radio, where he managed a staff of 150 across five departments. There, he was also play-by-play announcer for various Penn State including football, basketball and baseball.

Pelter also covered Penn State wrestling as a multimedia staff writer and reporter at GoPSUsports.com.

He also hosted segments of 46 Live, a 46-hour live video stream covering Penn State's THON, the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

Pelter covered Super Bowl LII as a member of the public relations staff for the NFL. There, he helped media at the stadium on game day and served as a postgame representative for NFL wide receiver Torrey Smith.

“Pelter has the perfect mindset to be one of the greatest success stories of this college,” said a nominator. “He rarely takes no for an answer and is always looking to improve himself. He always looks for that extra angle that will push his work above the rest. The question is not if he will succeed, but how far and where will his success take him.”


Dixon, who is majoring in plant science in the College of Agricultural Sciences, has participated in various research opportunities both on and off campus.

Dixon was a field research intern for Beck’s Super Hybrids, an agricultural seed company, where he aided in the collection of field data on commercial trials and test plots of maize and soybeans over a five-state region. Dixon gained experience on breeding and plot management.

Through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates, Dixon worked in a Molecular Biology Laboratory at North Carolina State University.

At Penn State, Dixon worked through the NASA Grant Consortium in professor Surinder Chopra’s Biopesticides Research Laboratory. There, he conducted multiple independent and award-winning research projects that dealt with sorghum. He also reviewed and presented key findings at the National Maize Genetics Conference.

“Dixon is an amazing student,” a nominator said. “Despite being in the lab for several hours during a regular day, he also participates in several professional activities during evenings and weekends.”

Dixon has been the College of Agricultural Sciences Ag Advocate, Penn State representative at the 2016 Pennsylvania Corn and Soybean Board winter meeting in 2017, National Forge Bowl Champion, 2018 Penn State representative at the Tri-Society’s annual meeting and Ag Student Council Executive Board member.


Last Updated March 26, 2019